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Can Attitude Save Planet from People?

Syeda Warda Ahmed : The environment can be defined as the setting that supports the existence of the human species, as well as a variety of other living organisms and vegetation. According to Environmental Sociologists, there are webs of interconnected relationships of dependency and reciprocity between humans, other animal species, plants, water, and the environment. This write-up talks about theoretical frameworks in Ecological Anthropology to understand various conceptual approaches between humans and nature, to acknowledge the significance of attitude in making a difference.

DEEP ECOLOGY: Deep ecology is an ecological/environmental and partly sociological philosophy that promotes the built-in worth of living beings, despite of their profitability to human needs, including a reorganization of modern human societies in agreement with such ideas. Deep Ecologists believe humans to be animals, and part of the natural settings which can’t be separated. Deep Ecologists claim that nature itself has an intrinsic value and that ethics must not be biased towards profitability of human beings. The idea of Deep Ecology protests that natural resources are finite, but the people and contemporary societies are dominating over nature, ultimately exploiting it which is leading to its degradation. The aim of Deep Ecologists is to promote “ecological wisdom” to the contemporary society and hope for a betterment of nature.

SOCIAL ECOLOGY: Social Ecology is a sociological approach, founded by a famous activist named Murray Bookchin, that accepts an ecological, communitarian and reconstructive perspective on society. This theory aims to reconstruct and transform on-going point of view on both social issues and environmental factors while encouraging direct democracy. Social ecology examines the interrelationships between people, society and their environment, which includes the interdependence of people, collectives and institutions. Social Ecology claims that humans tend to exploit one another, which results in environmental exploitation. However, they also think of humans to be special because of their “rational” and “reflective” behaviors. Social Ecologists do not consider the value of science, instead, believes science is shaped through capitalism. Ultimately, Social Ecologists believe that social hierarchy and oppression leads to environmental exploitation and degradation.

ECO-SOCIALISM: Similar to Social Ecology, Eco-Socialism is an ideology and belief of a transformed society in harmony with nature, and the development of practices that can come by it. Eco-Socialism merges the idea of sociology, ecology, green politics, as well as, anti-globalization. Eco-Sociologists believe that the expansion of the capitalist system is the cause of social exclusion, poverty, war and ultimately environmental degradation. They say that as nature shapes society, the society also shapes the environment, which is most often not in a positive stand. Eco-Sociologists are anti-capitalists and they believe that Science is also altered through capitalism, which leads to commodification of nature for profit. It is based on a perspective that regards other species and natural ecosystems as valuable in themselves and as partners in a common destiny. Eco-Sociologists say that capitalism has made nature and resources objects for human use, which is causing degradation, and believes that environmental degradation will end if wealth is evenly distributed among the people and society.

ECO-FEMINISM: Eco-Feminism is an ideology, as well as a movement, that believes in a connection between the exploitation and degradation of the natural environment and the inferiority and oppression of women. It is a political theory, also considered a branch of feminism, that sees environmentalism, and the relationship between women and the earth, as foundational to its analysis and practice. Women, who are scientifically proven to be more vulnerable to environmental degradation, are also considered to be more valuable to the nature. Out of the two types of Eco-Feminism, Social Eco-Feminism believes that social structure shape human nature and society is shaped by different types of social dominations such as racism, capitalism, colonization and most significantly, patriarchy. They say that humans all-together dominate nature, however, the degree of exploitation varies between class, gender, race and so on. They claim that Patriarchal capitalism exploits women’s productive and reproductive labor. The second type of Eco-Feminism is called Affinity Eco-Feminism, which is very often evaluated as Cultural Eco-Feminism. They believe the society to be patriarchal as a whole, where male dominates both ideological and material factors. Affinity Eco-Feminists believe that both women and nature have no value to men, while defining women to be biologically closer to nature.

Have environmental limits shaped human behavior, or have cultural practices altered nature?

Deep Ecology initially seems like an almost perfect theoretical approach to people under the disciplinary of Environmental Sciences. However, upon holistic evaluation, the limitations of Deep Ecology emerge when you realize the context of the theory is only set under modern or western societies. It adds up when you discover the Bio-centric and the Eco-centric nature of the ideology which makes the entire framework biased. However, the idea of nature having its very own intrinsic value, gives me peace as an Environmentalist.

While Social Ecology is in the opposite spectrum of the graph than that of Deep Ecology, it is in my opinion not even close to being ideal. Social Ecologists neglect one of the most important things in any disciplinary study, that is the value of Science. Other limitations of Social Ecology include the lack of motivation of changing environment for the better, that include changing lifestyles of people, as well as their denial of understanding. However, Social Ecology is similar to Eco-Socialism in believing that ethics is human delegated and that inter-human opposition causes environmental degradation. However, Eco-Socialism mainly focuses on the pitfall of capitalism, while anticipating an almost impossible ideal world where wealth is distributed among people.

Eco-Feminism shares similar ideas of capitalism, social structure and constructionism with Social Ecology and Eco-Socialism. However, Eco-Feminism, in my opinion, is impulsively biased towards women. While is it a proven fact that women are usually more vulnerable to environmental degradation and risk factors, it is not an absolute factor and might differ within different contexts. It is said that the claim that women are biologically closer to nature reinforces the patriarchal ideology of domination and limits ecofeminism’s effectiveness.   

While there is no right answer to which theoretical approach is the most ideal, but in my understanding, I’d say that the ideology of Eco-Socialism fits the closest to that of mine. While there are obviously some limiting factors, I think that Eco-Socialism takes into consideration one of the most concerning movements of today, that is capitalism. Eco-Socialism addresses that the uneven distribution of wealth, that leads to poverty is the root of Environmental degradation and I believe that this approach does a promising illustration of the idea. Eco-Socialism assesses through both an environmental and a social point of a view and concludes with an interception of capitalism. Even though I agree that it is not an easy game to end poverty overnight, it is still a good enough vision for a start.


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